A Comic Opera and Brown October Beer

“For All My Days I’ll Sing The Praise of Brown October Ale”

A quick follow-up to my earlier post of today, discussing in part Haberle’s Brown October Ale, a production of Haberle Congress Brewery, Syracuse, NY (1933-1962).

Brown October Ale was a well-known song from the comic opera Robin Hood, an American light opera first staged in Chicago in 1890. It was revived there as recently as 2004. The music was by Reginald De Koven, and book and lyrics, Harry Smith, both Americans.  (A third man, of English origin, wrote the lyrics to another song in the opera but not Brown October Ale).

The opera interprets the Robin Hood legend. The gas lamp era was a time when medieval England had some hold on the public imagination. This can be seen for example in the suede tunics, long caps, and soft, pointed shoes of some stage actors of the day. Perhaps too the keynotes of the Art Nouveau movement, natural wood, foliage, etc., reflect the influence.

Brown October Ale, the song, had a long career in the American popular music repertoire, and was performed into the 1940s at least. Here is a 1944 performance by Earl Wrightson.

The lyrics to Brown October Ale can be read in this link. Wikipedia gives good background on the play, here.

At least two other breweries put out an October ale in the 1930s (see Jess Kidden’s pages again). The Robin Hood opera and its star tune may explain the interest of FDR-era breweries to make a beer of that name more than any beer lore guarded tenaciously since the early 1800s.

Nut brown ale as a meme goes far back in English literature, it’s in Oliver Goldsmith and other writers used it too. Americans of the gaslight era picked up on it and one distant result was probably the beer I spoke of earlier.